A Moment In Time – 7/12/55

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maysnewpTuesday, July 12, 1955, the 22nd All-Star Game, County Stadium, Milwaukee. Top of the 7th inning, AL up 5-0, one on, two out, and Willie Mays leaps at the fence to steal a home run away from Ted Williams, which would’ve made the score 7-0. In the NY Times: “…Williams stroked a powerful smash to right center. But Willie gave chase and just as the ball appeared to clear the wire railing, the Say Hey Kid leaped up to snare the ball in his glove.”

As it was an All-Star Game, there were many press photographers present, and as shown here, there were photos taken from all angles of this amazing catch, since no doubt there were many cameras already trained on Mays. Willie was flying high in 1955, as the reigning NL MVP, batting champ, and with the other New York Giants, World Series Champions from 1954. Unfortunately, the Gold Glove award was not originated until 1957, but it’s a sure bet that Mays would have snagged a few in the early ’50’s, as he in fact won 12 straight NL OF GG’s right from the award’s inception until 1969. Also, in the ’50’s and ’60’s, you could’ve almost renamed the ASG “Willie Mays Day” as he participated in the game in every season of his career, except his rookie season (in which he was Rookie Of The Year!).

 

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The American League could’ve used that clout by Williams; after Mays caught the last out in the top of the 7th, above, he trotted in and led off the bottom of the inning with a single, eventually coming around to score as the NL tallied 2 in the 7th, and then for good measure, Willie also singled and scored during a rally in the 8th as the National League scored 3 more to tie it. Mays did strike out looking with two on to end the 9th, however, sending the game into extras. Would the Say Hey Kid have one more magical moment this day? Perhaps, but Stan Musial had other ideas, hitting a game-winning home run in the bottom of the 12th inning to give the NL a 6-5 victory – with Mays on deck.

Say Hey, one that got away?

Thomas Wolfe once wrote that “You can’t go home again”, and that was largely true for Willie Mays in 1972. That year, the prodigal son was traded to the New York Mets in May as his career was winding down, back to the city where it all began. Willie would not return to the City By The Bay until July 21-23, 1972.

The crowd certainly missed old Willie, cheering every time he made an appearance, and he didn’t disappoint, hitting a 2-run HR (and the eventual game-winner) in Friday night’s game. But while the fans loved it, the Giants may have taken offense, as shown below.

Willie didn’t start on Sat., but pinch-hit in the 8th with runners on and the game tied, 1-1, and he walked. On Sun., he played the whole game and had 4 plate appearances. The photos below are from an at-bat either on Sat. or Sun., since they were taken during the day, most likely on Sunday, in which a purpose pitch would’ve been a less risky proposition.

 

 

 

 

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A clear message? Or just one that got away? It could be either one, but check out the second photo, where S.F. catcher Doug Rader barely moved his body to corral what would’ve otherwise been a ball way outside. Personally, I think that leaves little doubt as to the intention of the pitch. Of course, back then, it was part of the game, not like today – think of Albert Pujols being drilled in his first at-bat against the Cardinals, whenever that would be. A full-scale riot would ensue, or at least a bench-clearer for the ages.

So even though the fans were still 100% behind him, and Willie still lived only a few miles away, with California “SAY HEY” license plates on his car in the parking lot, between the lines it’s still all in the uniform; and, whether the above pitch was in anger or not, it was pretty clear going forward that that plate at Candlestick Park was no longer…home.